Commentary & Opinion
United States Must Help Halt Spread of HIV Through Unsafe Medical Practices in Developing Nations, Opinion Piece Says
August 21, 2003
In "shameful contrast" to the "zero tolerance" shown for the transmission of HIV in medical settings in the United States and other developed nations, unscreened blood and unsafe medical injections have infected millions of people with HIV in developing nations, and it is "past time to make the eradication of this means of transmitting AIDS a priority," Holly Burkhalter and Eric Friedman of Physicians for Human Rights' Health Action AIDS Project write in a Washington Post opinion piece. "Despite the fact that safe health care interventions are affordable and effective, sufficient funds have not been available to correct the problem," Burkhalter and Friedman write, adding that part of the reason why international organizations and governments have failed "to make safe health care a priority for all" is that UNAIDS and the World Health Organization attribute 90% of HIV cases in African adults to unsafe sex and less than 10% to unsafe medical practices. Experts therefore consider safe health care practices to be "discretionary" when they are "promoting policies and parceling out inadequate foreign aid dollars," Burkhalter and Friedman say. International organizations and governments might also be concerned that attention to the medical mode of transmission could "distract attention" from sexual transmission of the disease and downplay the importance of condom use and "safe sex," according to Burkhalter and Friedman. However, people in Africa and Asia have the right to be informed about the risk of both unsafe sex and unsafe health care practices, according to the opinion piece. Burkhalter and Friedman conclude that the United States next month at the international AIDS conference in Nairobi should announce its "commitment to and financial support" of "best practices" in AIDS prevention -- including safe health care (Burkhalter/Friedman, Washington Post, 8/21).
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This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.